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Go To Your Room

Go To Your Room

by Marco M. Pardi

The heresy of heresies was common sense….The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.” George Orwell. Nineteen Eighty-Four. 1.7.1949.

Don’t believe what you’re hearing or seeing! It’s all fake news!” Donald J. Trump: 2019

Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance.” George Bernard Shaw

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All comments are very much welcomed and will receive a response. An easy and safe way to comment is to register as a “follower”. No one will track you, and your family pets will not be molested. Those having trouble may send me email at MPardi@aol.com and I will post your comment for you.

Ah, those were the most joyous words of my childhood. I was not banished, I was freed. Although I shared a room with my brother, he was usually not there until time to sleep. Instead I had many books, including a huge set of the 1910 Encyclopaedia Britannica my grandfather had bought, a radio, and a few adventure comic books. If I tired of reading long and detailed Encyclopaedia entries on how steamships worked or some such subject I could listen to the radio mystery programs while “curling” the huge encyclopaedias to develop my biceps.

As I grew and we moved from one house to another I retained that sense of the room as my sacristy, especially when my brother left for West Point. For many years thereafter my home, wherever it was, served the same role. Especially as I lived alone for so long. But therein lay the benefits and the risks.

Yes, living alone, or functionally alone provided all the joys of solitude: autonomy, my choice in what to do or not do, my selection of television news, shouting invectives at certain politicians, hurling foam nerf balls at the tv, or risking carpal tunnel syndrome from overuse of my middle fingers. What could be better?

The risks should be obvious. I was building my own information bubble, assembling my own igloo with blocks I had cut and trimmed to my satisfaction. Could The Polar Bear of Alternate Opinion come along and bat the whole thing down? I don’t socialize very much, in fact hardly at all. And I’ve written earlier (much earlier) of my impatience with “small talk”. I’m coming to suspect that now, even among those few people I know by name, the old standby – talk about the weather – would quickly morph into an unpleasant circular firing squad about whether climate change is real or a hoax, or a real hoax, or has anything to do with that rainstorm last night.

Then again, what happens when you raise a topic about which the other people in the group are ill informed or even completely uniformed? At a neighborhood chili cook-off I blundered into a group of guys talking about the current efforts to bring back the coal industry, the “clean coal” industry. (I should say here my neighborhood is composed of educated professionals) I said, “There is no clean coal”. Oh yes there is, they said with certainty. I then asked if they were referring to lignite, subbituminous, bituminous or anthracite. Group flat affect. Abrupt change of subject. Not caring much for chili, I went home. I was certain any “lecture” on my part, no matter how short, would have gotten maybe a nod or two and a mass departure for the chili tables. Although some of my college students would likely have guffawed at this, I actually am sensitive to lecturing too much.

Speaking of which, I recommend an outstanding book by Naomi Klein, NO Is Not Enough. It is short, precise, and offers analyses, solutions and action items. For example, in addressing the rule by chaos characterizing our current administration she dispels the common idea that this chaos arises from incompetence. Instead, she makes it very clear that this is a carefully orchestrated tactic. She asks us to imagine standing up to an automatic tennis ball server on steroids; we may manage to hit a few balls back but we will be quickly overwhelmed by the cloud of balls coming at us from various angles. And those balls carry the most damaging policies of this administration, such as canceling the Clean Air Act, eliminating the Environmental Protection Agency, going after every source of fossil fuel on the planet, de-regulating the industries which have harmed us, attempting to ban abortion and even contraception while cutting or eliminating all the supports for people hit the hardest by these measures. And on and on.

And so, we yield. We go to our room, where we can control the input coming to our senses, we can assure ourselves all is really well with the world, or at least it will be in a few years. But is that really what that voice inside us is telling us? If so, does that mean the propaganda machine is working? Blunt force trauma is effective but crude; fine tasting poisons, metered through the educational system, the churches, and other “benevolent” institutions are far more effective, leaving us crippled and thankful for it.

The temptation to withdraw into distractions like televised sports, game shows, “fluff” movies and so on is understandable. Yet when that inner voice tells us to speak up we must first know our subject and know our adversary. Another fine book I’m currently reading is Jonathan Haidt’s, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics And Religion. (Thank you, Rachel). Where Klein gives us insights into the group that fronted people like Reagan, George W. Bush, and now Donald Trump, Haidt brings out the moral psychology of the individuals on both sides of an issue. I want to study this in more detail before commenting.

But it can be said that the readers of my articles are spread throughout a great many countries, large and small, near and so far away as to seem safe. I’ve certainly felt safe in many of those countries, usually having to expend some effort to access American news. But that feeling of safety was a delusion. Sadly, the United States is still the world’s leading economy. It has by far the most powerful military. It exploits and consumes the world’s resources at a rate wildly disproportionate to the world’s population. And when it sneezes much of the world catches a cold.

American policies, be they in food production, energy usage, economics and banking, or any other arena are like prodding the spinning top which is our world. A miscalculation could destabilize and hurl our world into terminal disorder. A child playing with matches in the middle of an empty cement parking lot is the child’s problem; he may burn his fingers. A child playing with matches in the middle of a wood frame house while everyone’s sleeping is a problem of a whole different order. The United States, as portrayed in the Baby Trump balloons, is that child. Everyone on this planet must be concerned, if not for themselves then for their children.

Thinking of one’s far away country as a safe room in which to control reality is overlooking the reality of the planet coming down around us. And, it is, as the trite saying goes, “Drinking the Kool-Aid”, accepting as true one of history’s greatest propaganda coups.

I suggest we get out and talk with those neighbors, even if it means having a bowl of suspicious chili. Go armed with knowledge, but also with understanding. And here’s an idea: If you want to do this but are uncomfortable raising issues, point these neighbors to my blog. That way you can always say, Hey, I didn’t say that. He did.

I’ll be here in my room. But my room is wired to the world.

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Talking Heads

Talking Heads

by Marco M. Pardi

Here we are in this wholly fantastic universe with scarcely a clue as to whether our existence has any real significance.” E. F. Schumacher. Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered.

All comments are welcome and will receive a response. Some readers have told me their comments cannot get through. If you find this to be the case, email them to me at MPardi@aol.com and I will post them for you. 

We are rapidly moving into the full-on era of contestants vying for the nomination to unseat President Trump. Perhaps it will get interesting. That is, if some credible person in Trump’s own Party declares himself a contestant for his role. But as the dreaded season of sound bytes and talking heads swells into a maelstrom there is one principle I would suggest to any candidate. It is a principle I discovered somewhere around age 8: No one ever hears a word you say. People hear what they tell themselves you said.

Understanding this principle means one must make the effort to understand “where the listener is coming from.” For this reason I distinguish among Irrational, Non-rational, and Rational thinking. Commonly, when two people descend into an argument in which Person A simply does not agree with Person B, Person B will say, “Oh, you’re just being irrational.” That is a misuse of the term. Irrational means what is said makes no sense. A prime example is glossolalia, or “talking in tongues”, frequent among certain religious group meetings. The speaker has no idea what he is saying, nor do the listeners. No speaker is able to repeat what he said. It was just an expression of situational psychosis. Non-rational versus rational are exemplified by the following example: A car has crashed into a tree and the driver is dead. The rational investigator examines the scene and affirms the death. She then determines the impact indicates high speed. Looking at the weather conditions and the nature of the road she finds it was a rainy night, twisting road, and slippery surface. Going back further she finds the driver had just left a party where drinking occurred. And, she finds the driver had an argument with his girlfriend and left the party in a rage. Each and every one of these factors is objectively verifiable, that night, the next morning, next year, and ten years hence. She writes her report in a rational manner, citing the contributing factors and the case is closed.

The non-rational investigator follows exactly the same course, finding and citing the same factors, and writes his report. So what’s the difference? Although he may not put this in his report, he concludes, “So this is the way God chose to bring the boy home.” That is non-rational. It is non-rational because it cannot be objectively verified either way. We cannot say it’s true; we cannot say it’s false.

I am not saying non-rational thinking is inferior or bad in any and all matters. It is a fact of life that some people harbor beliefs which, by definition, are beyond objective proof. I am saying, however, that such beliefs, or the propensity to believe, powerfully influence and predispose the listener to hear what is objectively said and to shape it into conclusions the speaker would never have reached.

There are several pivotal issues arising in the early campaigning and preliminary debates. One such issue is Climate Change. We already know that the utterance of that term sparks comments such as, “Oh, global warming. Bah. What about the record cold waves this year”? And so we know there are people who cannot or will not distinguish climate from weather. Their understanding of meteorology peaked as they determined the ice in their Scotch melted at the same rate this year as last.

But speaking of melting ice, we do know polar ice is melting much faster and reforming much thinner each year. We do know that wildfires are more catastrophic, flooding more extensive, and wind related storms more powerful and frequent. Still, some people herald the melting polar ice as a great boon to intercontinental shipping. Some, such as Secretary of State Pompeo recently, advise us to simply move as sea levels rise and drought strikes (is he not aware of the massive and often climate driven migrations already occurring?).

In thinking about that old phrase “a fly on the wall” as it relates to what might be occurring behind the closed doors of policy makers I thought of a particular fly: the sand fly. Sound familiar? I hope not. The sand fly is the vector of a triumverate of diseases known collectively as Leishmaniasis. The three main forms are: cutaneous – the most common (known among U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan as the Baghdad Boil); visceral – invading the liver, spleen and bone marrow and often turning the skin black. It is responsible for the most deaths, usually among poor children; and, mucocutaneous – invading the mucous membranes of the nose and mouth and eating away the lips and nose while going on to devour the bones of the face such as the maxilla and teeth. The host population is comprised of a variety of mammals, including your dog and cat. The vector is the sand fly that bites the host, ingests the pathogen and goes on to bite you.

In the twentieth century 29 cases were found in the U.S., all in Texas. But in the 21st century, so far, it has been found in other States as well. Why? That should be obvious; warm temperature clines are moving north. In the late 1990’s Leishmaniasis was found in 50% of the discarded needles used by I.V. drug users in and around Madrid, Spain. (Look on a map and check the Latitude of Madrid) Some readers may say, Good. Let’s increase the number of infections among such people. But think rationally: those people become hosts for the sand flies to feed on and then move to the rest of us.

And along with Leishmaniasis we are seeing cases of dengue fever, Zika, Chikungunya, Malaria, Chagas’ disease and other tropical diseases moving north. We too easily forget malaria, as in Plasmodium vivax and Plasmodium falciparum which were endemic in the United States until the invention of DDT, a pesticide which took a staggering toll on wildlife throughout the country as documented by Rachel Carson in Silent Spring. Until recently we could say tropical diseases had little to no chance of survival in the U.S. as the yearly average temperatures were too low to support them. That is changing rapidly. In that context we might remember Richard Preston’s warning: “A hot virus from the rainforest lives within a twenty four hour plane ride from every city on Earth.” (The Hot Zone). There are no vaccines against many tropical diseases; pharmaceutical companies simply didn’t consider making that investment for the health of the world’s poor. And, there are no absolute cures for diseases such as Leishmaniasis; treatments costing $20,000 and up per treatment are available if you find a doctor in time to make the correct diagnosis.

It should come as no surprise that physicians in the “First World” are not well trained in recognizing tropical disease symptoms presented in emergency rooms. During intensive counter bio-terrorism training presented within the Intelligence Community I, and a couple of my colleagues, were seated in the facility cafeteria for dinner when trained professional actors, who had been “made-up” correctly by tropical disease specialists and professional make-up artists, came over and sat down with us. As soon as they sat down the clock started running. Each of us had 30 clock seconds to look at the actor across from us and determine whether the symptoms present on them were (in my case) Chicken Pox or Smallpox and respond accordingly. Could you tell the difference?

SARS, Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome, was a good example of Preston’s warning. Originating in China in 2002 it blasted into 37 countries by 2003 resulting in 774 known deaths. A federal agency to which I was attached asked me to do a 90 day TDY (temporary duty) on the island of Saipan to screen air passengers from Asia heading to the U.S. My wife, a retired senior microbiologist, was fiercely opposed to my going. She had already been quite upset by my 14 day assignment investigating the Anthrax attacks in Washington, D.C. (On my return from D.C. she wanted me to undress in the driveway and burn my clothes. I suggested the neighbors might not like that.) Since I already had other commitments I chose to not go to Saipan, much to my regret.

When I was growing up I heard people say, “Oh, those people in Africa are always dying of some weird disease or other.” Well, here’s the news. As the world climate changes there are now far more areas which are primed and ready for the arrival of those diseases, whether by insect, human migrant, tourist, commercial freighter, or executive jet. The new nests are ready to facilitate the hatch. And hatch they will.

So here we are back to the problem of how to communicate this to people in ways that motivate them to act. The recent measles calamity shows just how entrenched the “anti-vax” people are, even when the lives of their children may be at stake. Talking heads are clamoring for a Green New Deal, a reprisal of how Roosevelt pulled the country out of the Depression with a massive government infra-structure spending program only this time on ways to avert or at least slow Climate Change.

Yes, there are those who say God will take care of us, and many of these same people once said hurricanes were God’s anger over homosexuals and liberals. Yet speaking to them seems to be an exercise in glossolalia; they have no idea of how to make any sense of what we say.

And there are those who seem otherwise reasonably intelligent. Yet they deny climate change and continue the murderous policies of fossil fuel exploitation, over fishing the oceans, laying waste to the planet in search of “precious” metals, etc. Are they coming from a position of one or more of the 7 Deadly Sins? Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy, and/or Pride? Should we make Short Sightedness the 8th Deadly Sin? Or do they know exactly what they are doing even though the planet they will leave their children and grandchildren will be less and less one on which they could live, much less want to live. When I was in a nuclear strike force in the Air Force we had a saying, “Pity the survivors.”

It seems clear to me Talking Heads won’t get it done. Rationally thinking minds and hard working hands will.

What do you think?

Analysis: NDEs

Analysis: NDEs

by Marco M. Pardi

Since proofs need premises, it is impossible to prove anything unless some things are accepted without proof.” Bertrand Russell. The Faith of a Rationalist. 1947

All comments and questions are greatly appreciated and will be quickly answered. If I do not know the answer I will direct you to someone who does.

A few weeks ago a television producer of investigative documentaries contacted me to consider enlisting my aid in producing an explanation and rebuttal to the ongoing attempts to discredit NDEs – Near Death Experiences. As of this writing we have agreed to pursue this, although she is currently occupied with other projects and I have projects of my own. Nonetheless, the endeavor should commence in early Summer 2019.

As you may know, I have covered this many times in various ways throughout the many years I taught Death & Dying classes at various colleges and universities. However, I thought this time I might commit to writing my method for analysis and the logic which leads to conclusions. And, I thought, what better venue in which to solicit comments and questions than this site?

Now, since the producer and I had only about a 60 minute discussion we did not explore all the questions and claims which may arise but I will do my best to anticipate them based on experience.

By now you must have concluded I am writing in the hopes of encouraging you, the reader, to participate by providing comments, questions, and your thoughts on the subject. You are correct. Doing so is easy and costs nothing. If you choose to submit an entry you have only to click on the comments and

follow the simple directions. If your comment does not appear, I will find it and post it for you. No name is required, no one will trace you, and your family pets will be safe.

The first step is to clarify what we are examining. NDE report refers to the report a person makes, usually verbally, after a life threatening event they experienced was accompanied by a cognitive episode they conclude was outside of every day experience. Most commonly, they link the life threatening experience and the cognitive episode: e.g. I crashed my motorcycle into a parked car and next thing I knew I was out of my body looking down at myself. The life threatening events span a broad spectrum, on which operating table events (anaesthesia) represent only a very small part. The reports of the cognitive events vary greatly in detail, depth, and intensity; notably, they do not conform to the usual progression of events portrayed in popular media. In fact, those reports that cleave too closely to those portrayals are immediately suspect.

Some people react to these reports by immediately pronouncing them unscientific. These people obviously know little or nothing about science. Science is not simply about asking What is; it is about asking What if. Those concerned only with what is should become librarians. They know where everything is. The history of science, until recently known as philosophy (hence: Doctor of Philosophy degree) includes the contributions of luminaries such as William James, “Father of modern psychology”, who devoted his career to the study of the “paranormal”; Carl Jung, co-originator of psychoanalysis, who wrote extensively on the subject of NDEs and of his own NDE; and current oncologists, surgeons, physicists, anthropologists, and others. Still, there are some who say science cannot apply its methods to this area so it must not exist. It is true that we cannot use the Experimental Method to march an experiencer into a laboratory and say, “Do it again….and again….and again.” But this is not the fault of the phenomenon; it is the fault of those who have forgotten their roots, the roots of logic underlying philosophy. These same roots of logic are the foundation of our legal system. We do not require an accused murderer to go back and “do it again” in order to satisfy ourselves of her guilt, and put her to death.

Next, we must acknowledge that we cannot know the experience described in the report; we did not experience it. We can know only the details as reported. Thus, the substance of the experience, the “then I saw…..”, can be evaluated only on the basis of supportive veridical (demonstrable by an outside source) information. Seeing a predeceased grandparent does not in itself count for anything. Seeing a deceased significant other with provably no prior knowledge of that person’s demise does count for something, and can be objectively verified.

Now we sit down with the experiencer and listen, recording it if permitted. It is critically important that we maintain flat affect and silence. We do not ask questions. At no time can we appear to approve or disapprove any element of the narrative. When someone reports they saw a “bright light…it was God” the analyst is not in a position to say it was or it wasn’t. The analyst can only refer to the Interview (see below) to suggest the reporter may be retroactively applying a belief as a fact.

When the reporter concludes her report we move, without any judgmental remarks on what we have heard, into the questioning phase. We have maintained silence and flat affect throughout the narrative and have asked no questions during that time for a simple reason: We must be careful to prevent any sign or indicator which might cause the reporter to edit her narrative. And, just as many physicians practice “defensive medicine”, we must frame our questions in anticipation of the criticism from others which will surely come our way. We must remain mindful that, no matter how animated or emotional the experiencer may become, the report is a memory not a current experience. We must determine the placement, the nature, and the power of any filters which may alter the way the event is reported from the way the event was experienced.

Some obvious potential filters are: Age, religious upbringing, exposure to print and other forms of media portrayal of NDEs, persons to whom this narrative has previously been confided, and beliefs about “normal” psychology. Contrary to the presumption that “we see what we want to see”, which suggests the person is “front-loaded” to perceive certain things, as each potential filter is discussed and explored we begin to understand how, as a person reruns the memory and tries to make sense of it they might be applying explanations in hindsight.

If the reporter is being honest (some are not) and has examined her own filters and overcome them the experience she describes will more than likely not conform to the media driven progression of events and elements; few do.

Nonetheless, there is currently an intensified effort to “debunk” the elements which are reported. These efforts come from those oriented to the Materialist perspective – nothing immaterial is real and everything can be explained as a phenomenon of material effects. For example, a recent article in a science journal described the contraction of the retinas during hypoxia and proposed it as the reason why an oxygen starved brain perceives a “tunnel” in an NDE. I was shocked that something so clearly absurd was published in a respected journal. The problems?

First, the sense of going through a tunnel is far from universal; it is found almost exclusively in European derived populations. It is statistically absent in Asian, African, and New World populations of non-European descent. Even among European derived populations it is nowhere near as common as the media portrays it. Second, in those cases where an NDE occurs during surgery the patient’s eyes are usually taped shut and shielded against the intense surgical lights; there is nothing for the retinas to see. Third, hypoxia presents as, yes, narrowing vision but it is chiefly confused and blurry images accompanied by confused thinking. Hundreds of NDE reports from surgical patients (and others) around the world begin the narrative with wonder at how clear (“much more clear, real and colorful than ordinary life”) the experience was and how one had what seemed like 360 degree vision. Fourth, this attempt at criticism, and other like it, ignore the mounting and irrefutable evidence of the separation of brain and mind. In hundreds of reports the patient was medically certified as having NO brain activity. That means no perception as well as no memory of perception if the brain is the final arbiter. Yet, in these reports the patient is able to clearly and accurately describe what transpired, who did what, and who said what in the operating room. This, despite having eyes taped and usually a screen occluding vision from the neck down.

Another common claim is that the experience was an effect of the anaesthesia. In fact, of the many thousands of NDE reports surgical reports are a tiny segment. It appears that if you wish to have an NDE, don’t have anaesthesia.

As I have addressed the many Straw Man claims of the Materialists in previous articles, I will not repeat them here. However, if you have any comments or questions about attempts to debunk NDEs you would like specifically addressed, please do take advantage of the comments section and present them. I will respond as quickly and completely as possible. No comment is out of bounds.

I will say that, especially now, I understand at least one of the reasons these Materialist claims are put forward. I think a primary driver of the over-reactive Materialist position is the very realistic fear that the ever present and ever probing religious zealots will find a way to take the findings of science and attribute them to some over arching supernatural being. If the scientific community admits to a non-corporeal reality it could open the door to theocracy and the end of objective science. We need look no further than the current uproar over the frenzy to ban abortion and limit access to contraception now that the residents have taken over the asylum.

I’ve been told that this length is about the limit of a reader’s patience with an article. So, I will close with a brief reminder of my request for comments and questions. They would be most helpful, and nothing is out of bounds.

Disturbing the Peace

Disturbing the Peace

by Marco M. Pardi

There are two kinds of people: Those who don’t know and those who don’t know they don’t know.” Robert B. Reich. 1995

All comments are welcome and will receive a response.

Most of us have grown up with the meme, Ignorance is bliss. Usually it is said in jest, or at least to compensate for some shortfall in knowledge. But the actual quote is: “Where ignorance is bliss, ‘Tis folly to be wise.” Thomas Gray. (1716-1771) Ode on a Distant Prospect at Eton College. 1747.

So that puts a different spin on that casual piece of “wisdom”. Is it folly to be wise? Or is it folly to be seen as wise?

Yet we’ve now developed a new meme, TMI, or Too Much Information. Whenever I hear that, usually in response to an explanation I’ve given (I refuse to present incomplete information), I form the impression the speaker is intellectually lazy. Who doesn’t want information?

But wait. Is there such a thing as too much information? Some years ago at the start of a lengthy journey I stopped in Seattle to see an acquaintance. She was a ticket agent for a major airline at SEATAC, the Seattle/Tacoma airport. Her boyfriend worked in the administration of SEATAC parking lots. She had forewarned me he habitually said whatever came to mind. So, where we might say, Pleased to meet you, he might say, Let’s get this over with. The evening went well, except for those awkward moments when he asked, Did you have sex with her (the young ticket agent)?

In current parlance we would say he “had no filters”. Whatever we call it, most of us learned at an early age to edit what we say. We also learned to edit how we answered, and not just for our own convenience. In the last days of her years long descent into Alzheimer’s my mother, in a seeming moment of some clarity, asked me, “Am I dying?” I answered truthfully: “You look fine to me, Mom.” Of course, she did look fine. The problem was totally internal. And what purpose would have been served by saying, Yes, you have a terminal condition and I would not expect you to live much longer? The fact that she asked at all suggested that, at least in that minute or so of clarity, she was not entirely ignorant of her situation. And, as expected, her attention quickly shifted into her routine kaleidoscope of perceptions, conceptions, reactions, and silence.

Please don’t misinterpret my use of this aphorism, but we also grew up being advised to “let sleeping dogs lie”. When information can be a call to action, is it appropriate to provide information for which no action is possible? A well meaning person might say, But your mother could have made her peace had she been given that information. And I would say that well meaning person has never been around an advanced Alzheimer’s patient.

On the other hand, we are daily faced with situations for which information can be, and is, a call to action. When I received my Naturalization as a U.S. citizen I had the impression citizenship was participatory, not submissive as in the Fascist Italy of my earliest years. I did not swear an oath to be anyone’s loyal subject. I acted on that participatory impression, speaking out in school, volunteering for the military, and successfully working hard to qualify for hand-picked volunteer-only military positions. Once out of the military I continued on that course even while in college and graduate school, winning selection for positions most Americans still don’t know exist while also, later, working in very public, outspoken jobs such as college teaching and assignments in U.S. government agencies.

But hands-on information is taking a back seat to a new phenomenon. Since the advent of the internet and on-line publications we have seen an exponential proliferation of “information” sources, some of them calling for action more clearly than others. As I frequently see international news media coverage of street marches and huge public gatherings protesting some issue of importance I try to understand both (or all) sides of the issue, even knowing my “evidence” is limited through media filters. But while I often find myself leaning toward one particular side I still find myself saying, You think you’ve got troubles now, just keep complaining about your singular issue or keep sitting on your ass while the American regime in power goes unexposed and unchecked.

Although I was out of the country much of the ’60’s and some of the ’70’s I do remember the mass protests, particularly against the Viet Nam war. Where are these people now? Signing up at their local Social Security office? I understand the pervasive atmosphere of fear and the sense of futility resulting from a regime which has ever more sophisticated methods and means of surveillance at hand. And the regime in power has shown unbridled willingness to deploy it. At the time of this writing the Attorney General of the United States, acting as the private attorney for the president, has initiated a third separate investigation into how the now well documented Russian election meddling probe got started. Never mind the numerous convictions and prison sentences; the regime is investigating the investigators.

Over the past couple of years I’ve signed hundreds of petitions, entered dozens of lengthy comments into The Federal Record, and sent dozens of E-letters directly to the White House. Perhaps I’m honored with my very own surveillance satellite parked in space over my house. I can imagine it now:

Officer Joe Bagadonuts comes to my house.

Yes, Officer, I was standing on my front lawn.

You were displaying your significant finger to a rightful property of the United States.”

Officer, I consider all my fingers equal in value and in their right to be on my hands. So, I do not have a significant finger.

Never mind the equality crap, put your equal hands behind your back.”

I doubt that will happen. Notice doubt, not certainty. Has it come to this? Are Americans settling for what they think of as peace while paying for it with the loss of everything America once was? Maybe in all those years in school I got bad information; maybe America never was any of those things. I admit I had doubts at the time.

So, in contrast to my earlier stated understanding of the fear and futility so many seem to feel I do not understand how so many seem to have the Not My Problem attitude. It’s as if Timothy Leary’s message, Drop acid, drop out, really did take hold. La, la, la. What mindless programs are streaming, beaming, gleaming now, what sports program preempts that nasty evening news, what Bachelorette is hawking her ass to the highest bidder? What “reality” shows are better alternatives to our own reality? What’s the price of gasoline?

Twenty five White male Republicans in the State of Alabama just passed the most Draconian anti-abortion law in the United States, seeking up to 99 years in prison for any and all providers, including the woman having the procedure. They cloak this move in religious garb yet there is not a single mention of abortion in the Torah, Talmud, Mishnah, or what Christians call the “new testament”. The prohibition of abortion (and contraception), once common practices, was started by the Catholic church as it quickly organized itself into an empire, with need for a greater population base from which to draw military support. Developing nations quickly found that a workforce so hamstrung by excessive family size is a workforce desperate to accept any working conditions no matter how bad, even enlistment in the military. The same people across the country are attempting to limit access to contraception under the guise of “religious liberty” for pharmacists.

But any simpleton knows this. Or do they? As of today 66% of Americans think overturning Roe v. Wade, the constitutional right to obtain an abortion, is a bad thing; 23% are in favor of it. Our government of the people, by the people, and for the people functions only if the people speak out, only if they disturb the peace.

I’ve been speaking out through this website for a few years now. The site has a wide readership, yet few seem daring enough to comment. How about this? If you are uncomfortable offering a comment, at least forward the site to someone who may do so.

Disturb the peace.

Racism, or Classism?

Racism, or Classism?

By Marco M. Pardi

The distinctions separating the social classes are false; in the last analysis they rest on force.” Albert Einstein. “My Credo” Wisdom. 1956

All comments are welcome and will receive a response.

While walking Plato the other day I stopped to talk with a couple of neighbors, a White woman and a White man, who were having a discussion by the curb. Of course, coming in late on a discussion is always questionable but I knew them well and the discussion seemed rather open. One of them had just begun saying, “You know, deep down everyone is racist to some degree.” I cautioned them that Plato, a Korean Jindo, might bite them. That lightened the mood enough for them to engage me in their discussion of the media coverage of the Trump administration’s apparent racism. I will use the terms used in the discussion.

The woman went on to say, “Look at the Blacks who live in this neighborhood. They live in this expensive area rather than live in the Black neighborhoods because they don’t want to live around those ghetto Blacks.” I said, “That’s not racism; that’s classism. You would not want to live around the White people living in the North Georgia mountains, but they are just as White as you are. Remember the movie Deliverance?”

My remark pretty well dampened the conversation. But I later thought more comprehensively about it. I’ve long been sensitive to these issues. When my family moved to the U.S. I was a child. They drilled me daily on American English, telling me that I must lose any accent or suffer discrimination from everyone. But that’s not a race issue, and because my two grandmothers were British I “looked like” any other American kid (most of my life I’ve heard, “You don’t look Italian”). So, I thought, until I said my name I was an acceptable person.

As a young person I did not have opportunities to venture far from our neighborhood but the families on three sides of us were Observant Jewish and I got along with the kids quite well, especially Naomi, the girl next door. They went to public school and then Hebrew school; I went to Catholic school. No big deal.

Members of the family worked, but I do not recall anyone asking why no one in mine seemed to.

Later we moved to a much more exclusive area and I entered a very expensive monastic college preparatory school. It was all boys, from various countries and even different religious backgrounds. Boys were there from the Middle East, South America, Asia and even Canada. There was Old Money, New Money, and probably some ill gotten money. But clearly, everyone there had a family that could afford to put them there. And I never heard any references to race, although there were no Blacks.

But then I got a different and unexpected view. I was on the football and the track & field teams. Our school bus was the common yellow kind, with the name of the academy on the sides. One warm Spring day, as we made our way into a rather rough part of Cleveland to compete against a Catholic high school we paused in traffic on the edge of road and sewer main work. The workers, all of whom were White, looked up from their shoveling and stared at us through the bus windows. Close enough to reach out and touch the bus, two of them spit on the bus. I looked directly into the eyes of one worker and saw, for the first time, genuine hate. I had never felt “in” with any group or demographic. I was a bit puzzled that he apparently thought I was “one of those”. But then, I was on the marked bus. In fact, oddly, I felt a kinship with that worker though I could not possibly explain why. That I vividly remember this over sixty years later must convey something to you, the reader.

Over the years most of us have heard or read glib attempts to lump a group of people into a predetermined box. First comes the conception of the group – “All people who fit these criteria are upper class. Or, All people who fit these criteria are Black.” And on, and on. Ronald Reagan may have set a record for such a performance when he played to American preconceptions with his totally fictitious “Black welfare queen driving a Cadillac in Chicago.” When challenged to identify this person he did his routine “Huh, huh” and laughed it off because he knew many in America believed these people existed even if he couldn’t name a particular one. These same people shrug it off when presented with the statistics which show there are FAR more Whites on welfare than Blacks. What you know is of little importance when held against what you believe.

Just as the handlers who coached Hitler and scripted his speeches (Jews are the cause of Germany’s economic problems) became role models for those handlers who coached Reagan and propped him in front of cameras (Blacks are the cause of America’s economic problems), the handlers and coaches of Trump have helped him make Hispanic migrants the Jews and/or the Blacks of the 21st Century. The time-worn trope, If they are this, then they are that still holds in the minds of many. I encountered it even as a teenager. When some people learned my family was Italian, and wealthy, I heard the refrain, Must be Mafia.

The Wall across the southern border is intended to keep the Hispanics out just as surely as the cordon around the Warsaw Ghetto was intended to keep the Jews in.

Of course, the regime’s early efforts at a complete Muslim ban backfired when someone realized the Saudis could turn off the OPEC oil spigots and sell their oil elsewhere. So the regime looks the other way while the Saudis murder and dismember journalists critical of them. And after an anti-discrimination protester is murdered in Virginia the regime tells us there are very good people on both sides. Very good people.

But the regime’s efforts to dance away from the White Nationalist ethos it blatantly supports are confusing on the surface. Are they based on some concept of race? Religion? Economic status? “Class”? Or are they somehow conflating all four? The belief that Jews secretly control the entire economic structure of the world banking system is still prevalent within the regime’s “base”. I still hear people say, I Jew’d them down when talking about a deal they made. When stationed in South Florida I heard the wealthier neighborhoods described as, Where the rich New York Jews live. The Jewish families I grew up around were hard working and, if they were hoarding ill gotten wealth I never knew of it.

Americans still confuse social class with monetary wealth. And this ignites discomfort when a person who is this, turns out to not be that….a person who is Black or Hispanic or Muslim turns out not to be on welfare, or mowing your lawn, or running a convenience store. How dare they? Must be that damned Affirmative Action.

The term Tribalism is now commonly used to describe the mosaic of American society. Although that comes somewhat close, that’s a mischaracterization of what tribes are and how they function. Instead, the “Melting Pot” of yore has become a rolling boil of disparate parts, each quickly glancing at and judging other parts as they swirl toward overflowing. Election cycles are contests of who can stir these parts into supporting their rise to the top. And each part hears only the tropes it already believes and see only the “truths” it was convinced of beforehand.

Because this society has such a garbled and confused view of ethnicity, “race”, religion, and “social class” I think it is pointless to label someone a racist or a classist or whatever. Any such label is bound to miss the entirety by a wide margin. If there is any label which comes close to comprehensive, perhaps it is bigot. But where does that leave us? How can we know that the person using the label bigot is not, therefore, a bigot?

The use of labels has always been with us, but it has escalated under a president who tosses them out like beads at Mardi Gras. Of course, they have their place. On a college campus where I enjoyed the various vegetation I noticed on a Monday that every tree and shrub suddenly had a label on it, apparently placed by the Botany department. Half joking, I said to someone from that department, “Gee, all this time I thought they were just plants.”

But we are clearly at a point where few if any are laughing. Labels are flying like bullets in an amateur gunfight. I’ve been in settings where someone appears on the evening news presenting a serious and cogent position on an important issue and someone in the room says, “You know they’re gay, don’t you?” What the hell does that have to do with anything?

What would our days be like if we saw plants instead of (enter Genus/species here), and people instead of (enter “race”, ethnicity, religion, class here) ?

It is within our power to resist the force which impels us to conveniently apply labels. Do you think you could do it?

Relative Value

Relative Value

by Marco M. Pardi

Each person is born to one possession which out values all his others——his last breath.” Mark Twain. 1897 Following the Equator.

Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together…all things connect.”

Chief Seattle

All comments are greatly welcomed and will receive a response.

Long before I entered the military I learned that insurance companies have tables of values for the loss of certain body parts and/or functions. Lose one hand: X many dollars. Lose both hands: X-plus many dollars. And so on. They even have it down to fingers and toes. Later, I read about pin-up models getting their breasts insured. Insured against what? Could someone run off with them? Would cup size determine Petty Theft versus Grand Theft? Scanning some of these tables I wondered who came up with these and on what basis did they assign value. I remembered schoolyard discussions about what one super power one would choose (I still prefer invisibility), and a few discussions about what parts or functions we could do without (Hell, no). So I wondered, How do dollars replace a hand? Moreover, how do they replace eyesight?

I supposed that in some cases the money was intended to go toward rehabilitation, or even a prosthesis if possible. Later, that started me wondering about people who sell their organs, such as a kidney. Do they simply settle for market price, haggle, hold out for high bid?

When I joined the military, during the early build up of the Viet Nam “War”, I got a dose of the ultimate balance of value: possibly giving one’s life for one’s country. While not a new concept, the actual possibility was laid at my feet for the first time. I was never a “team player”, although I did play football in high school. I don’t recall ever being concerned about who won or who lost a football game; my only interest was in the legalized one-on-one combat I could engage in with different colored jerseys. I certainly knew of military heroes, but never planned on being one. Country was abstract, life was interesting and here now. It seemed to me throwing one’s self on a grenade was an act of wanting to be a hero without realizing one would not be around to accept the applause.

At CIA headquarters, at Langley, Virginia, there is a bronze statue of Nathan Hale (“Saint Nate”, as he is known within). It’s a copy of a Bela Pratt casting done in 1912 and actually quite good. As you know, he was hanged by the British as a spy on September 22, 1776. He is best remembered for his final speech in which he declared his regret for having only one life to give for his country. He was 21 years old, and did not live to see the country he was dying for.

I was not in the Army, and my assignments were for the most part solitary. But as the war ground on I learned that, per capita, Black soldiers were taking casualties at rates orders of magnitude higher than White soldiers. It turned out they were being put out “on point” and in other forward positions far more often than Whites. I read some Army soldiers’ comments opining that they were “more naturally camouflaged”. Of course, booby traps and well laid ambushes don’t see that anyway. But I now wonder how Black Lives Matter would have viewed this unofficial, but common practice.

I’ve always idealized rational thought, being able to obtain all the evidence, weigh it and make an informed decision. At the same time I feel I always tried to incorporate an understanding of feelings into my calculus. And so, when my daughter was born and I saw her for the first time I was absolutely overwhelmed by my feelings for her. Still am. If someone had taken us captive and said, Your life or hers, there would be no hesitation on my part beyond demanding that she never know I had agreed to forfeit my life so she could live. And that has never changed over the years. But before anyone takes this partial evidence and reaches a conclusion I would ask one question: Does anyone for one moment think I could live knowing I had bought my life with my own daughter’s? Does anyone really think I would choose to live in the worst hell I could imagine? (Okay, that’s two questions, but you get it.) And speaking of super powers, I always said, Anyone who even thinks bad thoughts toward my daughter will suffer a most hideous, painful and prolonged death.

Of course, that’s my daughter. How about someone else’s daughter? How about a spouse? We might glibly voice our choices, but would we honor them? So as those ripples emanate out further across the great pond of life where does our commitment decrease, where do we say, I’m not getting involved? We each certainly do have our limits; there’s no sense denying it. How often have we heard the term Good Samaritan used over a grave site? And the world goes on as before.

One of the more extreme examples of setting values can be found in the subject of abortion. But let’s be clear: This is not about whether all abortions are good or all abortions are bad, or some are good and some are bad. It is about how one imputes value and acts upon it. I will stipulate at the outset that I do not consider a fetus younger than survival age outside the womb to necessarily be human. It may have the potential to be human at some point, but while simply in development there cannot be a claim of its humanity. Furthermore, having been exposed to many grim hours of teratology in undergraduate and graduate school, and during my 23 years with CDC, I have deep reservations about some classes of entities delivered at term.

What I am referring to here is the decision, undeniably taken by some, that from the point of conception a fetus is deserving of protection up to and including the murder of someone who might abort (“abort” simply means stop) it. Demonstrably there are people who impute a higher value to a fertilized egg than they do to a highly trained and educated physician who, as part of his/her practice, provides abortions to women who may very well have been given sound medical reasons for obtaining one. As so many cases have demonstrated, these people then go on to assassinate the physician. One must assume that, like throwing one’s self on a hand grenade, they envision themselves as heroes in the eyes of their god or at least their peers as they are inevitably caught and sentenced to prison. We shouldn’t doubt that this fantasy is also fed by aspiring politicians who press for the death penalty for abortion doctors, prison terms for staff, and even prison terms for the woman obtaining the abortion.

On reading this one might connect to the jihadi suicide bombers, supposedly seeking martyrdom and divine approval. Of course, there are many who believe that and act on their beliefs. But the little publicized fact is that an admittedly unknown number of these individuals do this because they have been assured their families will be killed if they do not. And if they do go through with it their families will be cared for as compensation. Or so they are told. So, rather than flee and possibly save their own lives at the expense of others they go through with it.

So where does this leave us if we are not thinking about abortion or planning a jihad? Some people say they could not take another person’s life even if they are within the circumstances legally recognized as defending one’s self, family, or home. They do not and will not own a gun. Is this a case of misplaced or unbalanced value?

Remember the “tough love” craze of not so many years ago? This gained much of its strength from the Alcoholics Anonymous concept of “enabler”. An enabler was someone who covered for a drunk, calling in sick for them, making excuses, etc. Enablers were then labeled “co-dependents” and told they were as sick as the alcoholic. The remedy was encourage the alcoholic to get help, but if he/she continued to refuse, to let the alcoholic pay the price for his/her behavior. I have shut the door on alcoholics I tried for months to motivate, even taking them to hospitals or detox centers. They were sick people, yet I valued their friendship when they were sober, or at least dry. There came a time, though, when I wondered if I was misplacing value. In one case it was an uncomfortable decision to make.

A final example of relative values dates back to the immediate post 9/11 era. The CIA, DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency), and the FBI jointly developed a program known as HIG – the High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group. But the CIA and DIA employed the more controversial “enhanced interrogation” methods where the FBI concentrated on building rapport with the detainee. This came at a time when a popular FOX program, “24”, was airing brutal interrogation techniques in its drama.

After abuses came to light, and three days after the inauguration of Obama as president, Obama issued Executive Order 13491 – “Ensuring Lawful Interrogations”. This limited techniques to those already approved and listed within the Army Field Manual and followed the philosophy that the more brutal the questioning the more unreliable the answers.

But the Republican Party fought hard to block every breath Obama took. As Senate leader Mitch McConnell said, “Our Number One priority is to ensure that the Obama presidency is a failed presidency.” Of course a failed presidency, of either party, could be disastrous for the entire country. But the lines had been drawn, and are there even more clearly today: Country doesn’t matter, Party does. I wonder what Saint Nate would have to say.

Write blogs, sign petitions, or see what’s on television? Time to get my values straight.

Hand Me Down

Hand Me Down

by Marco M. Pardi

The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook.”

William James. The Principles of Psychology. 1890.

All comments are welcome and will receive a response.

By now many readers know I have a daughter and three grandchildren. Actually, the term grandchildren seems misleading. The oldest is just finishing an advanced degree before entering medical school, the next is now a college Sophomore, and the youngest will enter university in the Fall. When I look at them I don’t see children.

Yet, I wonder what they see when they look at me. I try to think back to when I was their age and how I perceived someone my age. Both my grandfathers died before I was eight years old, so grandfather is not a good marker for me. I also grew up in circumstances which meant that I never learned how to be around small children; I relate to adults.

But I decided many decades ago that biological lineage is not the primary determinant of how I judge a person. I was raised that way and found it utterly alienating. I judge (and I use the word in a benign sense) on factors such as wisdom, empathy, understanding, and other elements of what we call character. The problem is that, living roughly 1,000 miles away from them, I get very little opportunity to display what character elements I may have. Two of the most uncomfortable questions I find myself pondering are: Do they know me, beyond the categorical title of grandfather; and, Do I know each of them, beyond the categorical title of grandchild. What if I were asked to write an essay about each of them, or they about me?

Of course I also recognize the huge gulf which rapidly evolving technology has opened between us. I can synchronize and tune multiple Weber carburetors while they zip along on electronic devices I do not know how to even turn on. I’m sure they would ask, What’s a carburetor? But that’s just an anachronistic tidbit, not a character trait. It’s also not a necessary skill for navigating our rapidly changing world.

Traditional cultures place high value on their elders, even encoding them in their legal systems. The loya jurga, encoded in the Pashtunwali, or Pashtun code of laws in Afghanistan is an example of elders gathering to render a judgment. Until the rapid post WWII Westernization of Japan elders were held in the highest esteem. Recent decades increasingly find them parked in nursing homes and “senior homes” not much different from our own.

So what exactly is the role a grandparent plays in the current Western family? Not so long ago when calamitous events such as severe weather or prolonged drought threatened we looked to our elders and asked, Did this happen in your lifetime? How did you handle it? Now we tune to the Weather Channel. Yet, as we increasingly recognize the intersection of climate change and economics/politics, where do we look? The nation wide infiltration of school boards by one particular political party is increasingly bringing severely biased textbooks into classrooms and gag orders onto teachers. Even the use of the term Climate Change is banned in some school districts.

If the parents are too consumed with their own (justified) needs to pursue their careers and support their families to be able to review their children’s text books and challenge school boards at meetings should the grandparents, with more time on their hands and much deeper experience step in? If a grandparent understands the science behind climate change, but the parents have neither the background nor the time to study it or perhaps fear for their careers, should the grandparent step in and discuss it with the grandchildren? How about a grandparent who has intimate and scholarly knowledge of Fascism, and how the United States is galloping headlong into a system which will disempower and subjugate its own people and destroy the environment while making a few very rich people very much richer? Should the grandparent speak up?

If it is true that those children who survive to the middle to end of this century will look back on their predecessors and ask, WHY?, shouldn’t we who know better speak and act now?

Aaah, I can imagine the eyes rolling and the, There he goes again, from the readers outside the United States. Well, for those who might think otherwise, the U.S. is a world problem not a colloquial problem. Although Fascism is not yet the formally admitted name for the American system, the operating principles are well in place. There are three differences between Mussolini’s system and the U.S.: Mussolini is on record as having called Hitler and his Nazis “barbarians” for their treatment of the Jews and other minorities. Trump commented on the Charlottesville, Virginia White Supremacy march by saying, “There are good people on both sides.” And, Mussolini took active steps to address environmental problems, such as draining the Pontine swamps and thus greatly reducing if not eliminating malaria in central and southern Italy. The regime which has Trump as its spokesman is dedicated to rolling back or eliminating every environmental regulation it can in its ruthless attempt to enrich itself. Finally, Mussolini brought the Vatican to heel. The secular Vatican empire, cloaked in religion, was rendered largely impotent in its contest with him. The U.S. regime, cloaking itself in “pro life”, is attempting to render abortion illegal and contraception nearly impossible to obtain while at the same time slashing or eliminating all forms of help for women and children. The end result will be people too desperate to protest working conditions and only too glad to enlist in imperialist military services. The regime is not pro life; it is pro birth….as in cheap labor and cannon fodder. The Fundamentalists are just too myopic to see they are being used.

And I would say the same about those outside the U.S. who deny that American economic, environmental, and political policies extend beyond its borders.

In the past few days the Mueller report has been “summarized” by Trump’s Attorney General and we are told “no evidence has been found that collusion (with the Russians) took place” and Mueller deferred action of Obstruction of Justice to the DOJ. Of course, the regime touts this as total and complete exoneration, even though the statement from Mueller explicitly says it does not exonerate the President. In my view, any first year law student would recognize that “no evidence has been found” does not mean there is no evidence; it means no evidence has been found. Any student who had my Critical Thinking course would also have immediately seen the fallacy in the regime’s position.

If this kind of false narrative is allowed to soak into the seedlings who are our youth what should we expect our garden to grow?

Okay, so I’ve ranted again. Should I not? Should I find a jovial shuffleboard court and pass my time until my time passes? I’m sure some would love nothing more. But some readers of my columns are grandparents. What’s your position? For that matter, one doesn’t have to be a grandparent to have an opinion on this. Even if I did not have my own grandchildren, why would I not speak up for those children out there who, in my view, are becoming victims and pawns in a deadly machine? Why should I not Hand Me Down?

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